Yes, the garden tomatoes have arrived! Aren’t they absolutely delicious? This is the time of year to indulge in their glory. Make BLT’s, tomato-avocado sandwiches and just plain tomato sandwiches with a schmear of good mayo…excuse while I step out for a cigarette! Aren’t these the tomatoes you’ve been dreaming about all year-long? Yes, that’s right. The Goddess dreams about food…and other unspeakable things, that we won’t go into here, okay? But when you’ve eaten your fill of fresh tomatoes, and you still have mounds of those beautiful orbs all over your countertop, one of the speakable things she dreams of is Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce. Just ripe tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and fresh herbs, in a slow oven until they become soft and just ever so slightly caramelized; they become this perfectly simple marinara.
I put the veggies into the pan, (those bay leaves are from my bay leaf tree that I bought at Woodland Gardens, in Manchester, CT. I’ve had it for about 12 years and I’ll be taking it with me to Miami, where it will be able to live outdoors ALL year long and not have to do the winters indoors! It looks better than it ever has at this time of year. I think it knows already…!)then the tomatoes. As you can see, I seeded them by simply swiping my fingers through the little cavities and the seedy-fleshy part pop right out.Roast the whole mess and then add the herbs at the very end, for about 30 minutes of additional cooking.
I got the original recipe from a couple of my Spice Mill friends. The dynamic duo of Don and Joyce. Great, charming people and fellow food lovers that they are, they kindly shared their recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? I, of course, was not clever enough to think of that idea on my own, and when Don brought me the recipe, I snatched it from his hand, lest he change his mind! Of course I made it immediately, then misplaced their recipe. And you know me well enough by now to know that I had to make a few little changes here and there anyway, just ‘cuz that’s what The Goddess does. So this is where we are now, but the idea and the root of this recipe is absolutely theirs.
Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 8-10 lbs paste-type tomatoes, like Roma (about 36 large ones), cored & halved
- 2 large onions, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 sweet bell peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped (use more if you wish)
- 15-20 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt (start with 2 teaspoons, then taste at the end)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup balsamic, red or white wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh, coarsely chopped oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh, coarsely chopped marjoram
- 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
- Additional salt, pepper, and sugar/honey to taste
- 2 big handfuls of basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 200°F-300°F. In a very large roasting pan (with an edge), combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, 2 teaspoons salt, lemon juice, fennel, and bay leaves.
Place the pan in the oven and leave it for a couple of hours. Then, as the mixture begins to give up it’s juices, give it a stir every hour or so. After about 4 hours (the tomatoes should be quite soft and there will be quite a bit of liquid), add red wine, honey, vinegar, pepper, and herbs, except the basil. Continue to cook until thick, at least another hour or three; there should be slightly less than 1/2-inch of liquid left in the pan, but you do want some liquid. The cooking time will vary depending on the liquid content of the vegetables and the temperature you choose. It may take as long as 12 hours!
Remove from oven; let cool slightly. Remove the bay leaves and “pinch” the skins off of the tomatoes, if you wish to. To purée, you have some options. Running the tomatoes through a food mill will separate the flesh from the seeds and skins, leaving you with only pulp. I purée the tomatoes using an immersion blender (I pour the whole mess into a deep, heavy pot to prevent my walls from wearing the pretty red sauce!) or you can use a traditional blender (cool mixture a more if using a traditional blender and be very careful to remove the center part of the lid, cover the opening with a towel so the steam can escape. If you don’t do this, the liquid can “blow up” and scald you).
After you’ve puréed as much as you wish, add the basil and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper, honey or sugar if needed, according to your taste preference.
Congratulations! Your sauce is ready. Cool completely before storing. You may put in containers and store in the fridge for up to 4 days, pour into freezer bags and freeze (it will keep for at least 6 months frozen) or can in pints (hot water bath for 10 minutes) or quarts (hot water bath for 15 minutes).
NOTE: If you choose to use the fresh herb option, coarsely chop them; you should have about 1/3 cup total, more or less doesn’t matter. Removing the seeds from Roma tomatoes is pretty simple. Just use your fingers to “swipe” the seeds out of the little cavities when you slice them in half length-wise. If you are freezing the mixture, you may add 1/3-1/2 cup of good olive oil when you purée the mixture; DO NOT add the oil if canning the sauce; add the oil when using the sauce. If you think you’d like the sauce to be a bit thicker, stir in a few tablespoons tomato paste.
Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All Rights Reserved.
A few things I’ve observed and experienced….
•You can use regular, larger, non-paste-type of tomatoes or a mixture of different types. The regular tomatoes have more liquid, so the cooking process will take longer. I quarter regular tomatoes. I like to throw in a couple of the orange tomatoes, because they are sweeter.
•You don’t have to peel the tomatoes. When you take them out of the oven, let the pan sit for 15-30 minutes. They you can just pinch the skins, and they’ll pull right off. If you have a food mill, this is unnecessary, as the food mill not only removes the seeds, but the skins as well. By the way, if you’re using an immersion blender or a regular blender, the seeds (and the skins) will become one with the sauce, and that doesn’t bother me. If it bothers you, then buy yourself a food mill.
•The drawback to slow-roasting, if there is one, is that it ties up your oven for eight to ten hours. And, it’s summer and usually hot outside, so it adds some heat to your kitchen, even with the low temperature. Therefore, roast the tomatoes during the night, and they’ll be done by morning; you may want to use the lower heat for this.
•You can also do this whole process on a gas grill. I mention gas, only because that’s the type of grill I have. I have four burners, so I light the 1st and 4th burner leaving the 2 center burners off. I place the pan over the center burners, turn the lit burners to low and let the BBQ do the work. I find this method needs a tad more attention, as you need to stir the mixture more frequently. The bonus? You can add some wood chips and get a bit of smokiness in your sauce! It’s pretty nice. On a hot, hot day, the whole process may take no more than 3-5 hours, so keep that in mind. Doubled, foil pans are perfect for this option, as you can pitch them out, so cleaning is minimal. Speaking of foil pans….•I have this great old aluminum roasting pan I got at a thrift shop, but if you don’t have such a pan, use a couple of disposable foil pans. Use the large ones and put one inside the other, as it just makes moving the full pan easier. I usually slide the pan(s) onto a cookie sheet when I move the full, hot pan around. Remember, this mixture will be hot. It will be very hot, so be very careful, as this experience won’t be great if you scald yourself and The Goddess wants you to be safe and unburned and enjoying your sauce.
•Don’t be afraid to mess with the flavors a bit. ♦You can give the sauce a Middle Eastern flavor by adding a broken cinnamon stick to the tomatoes, and replace the basil with fresh coriander. ♦You can add some curry powder the last hour of cooking and some fresh mint at the end. ♦You my add some red pepper flakes or a diced hot pepper to kick it up a bit.
•I prefer to dump everything into my nice, deep stock-pot. I use my “boat motor” to blend the mixture, and if I don’t use a deep pot, then I’m going to be wiping splattered tomato sauce off the walls, the windows, the stove, etc. And there will be expletives hanging over the house for years to come. We don’t want that, do we? No indeed, we don’t!
This mixture is simple and though it takes a number of hours, it really doesn’t require much direct attention. I canned some of it, froze some of it and used it directly. I made about 3 batches, as interestingly enough, the flavor of each batch needed to be tweaked with additional sweet, acid and salt, so keep that in mind when you make this. But, do make this. It is delicious and it’s fun to make…you’re house will smell like a great Italian trattoria. How bad could that be?!?